Mantra: Where Focus and Intention MeetDoug Scavezze
Ever heard of the word mantra? If not, what is it?
It’s not a type of food, a yoga position, or something you wear. It’s a word or statement that helps you focus on a larger goal and create more peace in your life in the process. People often use them during meditation or as a guiding principle for their actions and behaviors. The word mantra is derived from two Sanskrit words, mana (mind) and tra (tool). It literally means a tool for the mind. Mantras serve as reminders and tools for concentration. Not only can they help us as we meditate, but also as we move through life.
Think about something you’re trying to accomplish right now. Is it a long term or short term goal? Let’s say it’s something you want to do in this upcoming year. You’ve got twelve months or eight thousand, seven hundred sixty hours. Whatever. It’s a long time or maybe a short time, depending on the goal. The point is, you need to consistently focus on it. Easier said than done.
We live in a world with seemingly endless distractions. We’re also human and it really isn’t in our nature these days to stay focused. Some researchers say we lack even the focus of a goldfish. Ouch. Staying focused and committed to something requires concentration and a measure of patience, persistence, and resilience. It’s not always easy and motivation can only last so long. We need help along the way to stay the course.
It’s not that having a mantra will guarantee success, but it can definitely help serve as a reminder and become a catalyst for change as habit formation develops.
Here’s some examples of mantras or quotes that can be helpful:
To get what you’ve never had, you must do what you’ve never done. – Anonymous
Leave people better than you found them.
You never know what another person is going through.
They can also be as simple as a syllable or Sanskrit word like Om, which has long been associated with the sound of creation. Many religions all over the world and throughout history have used mantras. Using mantras when meditating can also have multiple benefits for us, including increased focus and reduced stress. They have also been shown to be effective in goal achievement.
In the lifelong journey of discovering our truths, mantras can help us find these truths. Creating a mantra and reciting it daily, whether through meditation or throughout the day, helps us form a belief we may not necessarily hold at the time we create it. By stating and restating something to ourselves we eventually begin to believe it and it becomes more true for us.
Think about it. How many negative or self-defeating mantras are you already saying to yourself continuously throughout the day? All the little, repetitive jabs and insults you throw at yourself build up through the years. Eventually, you start to align with and believe what you are saying over the course of time. These types of mantras can form as a result of our experiences or from what we’ve heard from many of the powerful influences in our lives when we were young. It becomes so easy for us to adopt these negative thoughts about ourselves, as a result of the things we repeatedly say or hear about ourselves.
Why wouldn’t the opposite be true? If we can program our minds to limit us, create obstacles, and become self-defeating, it stands to reason that we can also train it to empower and uplift us too. It takes the same things to make this happen: Time, consistency, and focus.
Mantras aren’t just about strengthening attention and focus. They also help us create and form new beliefs, ease stress and anxiety, and motivate us to do great things. Mantras have been shown to improve how we think (cognitive function) and how we feel (emotional regulation).
They have been used in many yoga practices, as mental health treatments, and by successful athletes and business people. Studies have shown how they increase blood flow to the brain which also helps improve memory.
As psychotherapist, Dr. Michelle Maidenburg states:
As humans, we all experience adversity. How we react to adversity will vary depending on our situation, experience, and values. Through powerful, memorable, and concise mantras, you will be continually reminded that through your adversity and challenge, you can find your joy, strength, and fortitude.
When used in conjunction with breath work and meditation, mantras become even more powerful and help to calm ourselves. Daily meditation with mantras is an excellent way to shift our minds and bodies into a more relaxed state.
Try it now. Find a comfortable position either seated or lying down. Now, start to do box breathing. This is when you inhale to the count of four, hold your breath to the same count, exhale to the same count of four, and sit with no air in your lungs for the same amount of time, repeating this process four times. Next, begin to focus on a mantra that is personally meaningful for you or one that helps you focus. Repeat this mantra aloud or in your mind as you meditate. Do this for 10-15 minutes in the morning or evening, or three times a day.
Using this as a daily practice will allow you the space and focus to achieve your goals. You may even form a more positive self-image, reduce stress, increase memory capacity, and improve your overall well-being in the process.